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Mon 17 May 2004 04:00 AM

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Construction recruitment on the up thanks to UAE’s boom

Construction recruitment is benefiting from the boom in the UAE market with workers flooding in from India

Introduction to recruitment|~|svmain.jpg|~|Sohail Vakil, recruitment manager, Al Vakil Recruitment Services believes the boom in the UAE’s construction industry will continue for at least the next seven years, meaning the recrutment business will also boom.|~|When it comes to recruiting skilled construction workers to work in the UAE market, there are more issues to contend with than you might think.

First of all, workers with specialist and in demand skills need to be found. Later these workers must be tested to make sure that they are good enough to work in the tough climate of the UAE construction industry. Then, the prospective workers must go through what is still the arduous process of gaining a visa.

Sohail Vakil of Al Vakil Recruitment Services has to contend with all of these issues day in day out. He told Construction Week what it takes to find the right man for the right job in the Middle East’s construction industry.

Tell me about Al Vakil Recruitment Services and what you do for the UAE’s construction industry?

We basically do overseas manpower recruitment and recruit from all of the construction categories all over India. The categories are very wide ranging and go from civil foremen and electromechanical sub contractors to duct fabricators and duct fitters.

We have offices all over India where we source workers from and supply workers to our clients within the UAE’s construction industry. We have offices and test centres in almost every part of India. The test centres are places where construction workers from all categories are tested to see if they are able to do certain construction-related jobs to a good standard.

The workers are tested in many different categories and wherever we go we can test all of the different categories. The trade test centres is a permanent mock construction site where all facilities for testing the workers are available and these tests provide an indication of the standard of different workers.

What type of construction workers are in demand?

All types of construction workers are in demand in the UAE at the moment. Good carpenters will always be in demand and construction firms always struggle to find really good quality masons and that is why we try and supply good masons. We have specialist training centres for masons in India where we train them and test them.

There is a shortage of good quality construction workers in the UAE. One of the reasons for this is that salaries in the UAE have gone down and there are some good jobs in other countries where wages aren’t too bad. Indian workers are popular because they are basically more skilled, do more quality work and can take the heat of this country better than workers from many other different nations.

This is why I think construction firms in the UAE prefer construction workers from India than any other country. Indian workers don’t create as many problems as Pakistani’s or workers from other Arab countries because India is such a vast place and if you take people from the north and people from the south, their cultures are different and they don’t really go around with each other because they have different cultures.

If you look at Nepal and Sri Lanka they’re very small places and most parts of these countries have the same culture so they can get together and cause trouble.||**||The boom and labour laws|~|indmain.jpg|~|Construction workers are thoroughly tested to see if they possess the right level of skills to work in the UAE. Workers are tested at special trade test centres.|~|Explain the history of the company and how Al Vakil Recruitment Services was started.

My father started the company and we have had offices in India for the last 30 years and we have been dealing with the major construction companies here for about 10 years. Over the last decade we have found work for over 10 000 people here but we started the company in India where we found work for local Indian firms.

At the moment we supply at least 500-600 workers to the UAE market and we supply to Al Habthoor, Dutco, Alamar and Nabuda. Basically, we supply to all of the big players.

We have supplied staff that have worked on some major projects such as Dubai International Airport and the Burj Al Arab and most of the other big projects in Dubai really.

Do you see the chance to supply even more workers to the Dubai market in view of the recent boom in the construction industry?

I see the boom lasting for at least another seven years and where there is the need for construction, there is also the need for workers and in turn, a need for recruitment.

The boom has had a big impact on our business because construction firms are getting new contracts all the time and they all need to recruit and that is where we come in to it. You never know how long this boom could go on for.

Dubai is growing and growing now and you never know, they could come up with even more major projects after this batch of developments such as the Palm Islands, the World, Dubailand and Burj Dubai have been completed.

Do you encounter any serious problems bringing construction workers into the UAE?

Visa issues are taken care of by the construction companies who bring the workers in and our role is to source the workers in India. Companies get a percentage of Indians and the rest from other countries such as Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Labour disputes sometimes affect us and we do give companies a three-month probation period on our guarantee. Sometimes construction workers run away because they’re not being paid and go and join other construction companies because they will get higher salaries because the company doesn’t have to pay visa costs.

The big companies normally pay salaries on time but smaller companies do not and we will not want to work with that type of company. Usually if a firm doesn’t pay a salary we try and talk about it with the company and if the workers aren’t happy we will pay for their ticket and send them back to their home country.

I wouldn’t say that the problem with wages not being paid is terribly wide spread and the labour laws are very strict now compared to what they were before.

Companies could get away with a lot more in the past but companies can’t get away with so much now because companies have to show their balance sheets to the labour office so I don’t think salaries will be such a problem anymore.

What do you think of the tougher labour laws?

I think they are definitely a good thing because companies seem to be paying salaries on time and labourers are happier than they were. Everything is going very well. In the past workers would come to us and complain about not being paid and we had to talk to certain companies occasionally but that doesn’t happen so often anymore.

When workers don’t get paid they get very upset because they expect to earn money here to send back to their families and often they can’t actually do that. Often workers give everything up at home and have nothing and the whole family is depending on them.

Also, I think the new Labour Court is a very good idea. It should make things better overall for construction workers and make the companies be fairer. It will be good for the labourers and the companies who still suffer from runaway workers and should make the whole industry far more transparent. I think it’s definately a very good thing for the industry as a whole.||**||

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